In 2020, 91% of RUSM students passed the initial step of the United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®) on the first attempt. And in 2019-2020, the first-time residency attainment rate for RUSM students was 92%. Located on the island of Barbados and with a network of more than 15,000 alumni, RUSM is one of the largest providers of doctors for the U.S. healthcare system. RUSM graduates practice in all 50 states and in Puerto Rico.
Med school is all in the family
How do you think your med school experiences were different? What experiences did you share?
Maile: Medical school has had its own challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I originally started medical school online, and I did not really have that personal encounter with professors or faculty members like my mom experienced. Medical school is difficult in general but learning to adapt to online schooling had its own challenges. Coming to the island of Barbados for my second semester was amazing. I was finally able to have that in-person experience and be surrounded by others going through the same process. I’m an outgoing person and made a lot of good connections with my classmates online first semester, so being able to finally meet everyone in person was fantastic. I was also able to meet so many other new people on the island and building that support system has really gotten me through my second semester. When exams come around, we all hunker down and get the job done. When exams are over, we all celebrate together! The island is beautiful, so getting to explore it after exams is a treat for all of us.
Kathrine: Unlike my daughter’s experience of having to be online and away from the island, we didn’t even have computers, so it wasn’t an issue. I’m a planner, so I researched everything about Dominica, which was where RUSM was formerly located. It was an eye-opening experience. Being at RUSM taught me a lot about who I was and what was important. I feel my experience at RUSM truly made me a better physician. One thing that is the same as Maile’s experience—I also loved the comradery that I had with my fellow classmates because we were all trying to maneuver island life in the best way possible. It was a lot of fun, and we all bonded in a way that I will never forget. To this day, I keep in touch with people from RUSM.
What experiences did you both have that made you want to practice medicine?
Maile: Growing up with two Emergency Room physicians for parents, I have always been exposed to the medical field. Other families talk about sports at the dinner table, but my family talked about the different medical conditions and procedures that my parents dealt with during their shifts. Being surrounded by medicine my whole life, it just made sense for me to go into this field as well. It’s all I have ever really known and been interested in pursuing as a career. It’s one of the most noble and honorable jobs you can pursue. Taking care of the human body is a gift and a privilege. I cannot wait to soon hear someone say, “Dr. Whitehead” and have them referring to me, rather than my parents!
Kathrine: Unlike Maile’s experience of having medicine in her life from the day she was born, I was brought up in a family where there were no physicians to guide my path. My greatest influence was a classmate’s father who was an Emergency Room Physician. He had a wonderful career, a full and happy family life with a family of seven children, and the ability to support his family. In a similar way, I followed the career path to finally practice in Emergency Medicine. I also have a large family of nine children whom I love and support just as Dr. O’Brian did.
What was difficult about med school? What made med school worthwhile?
Maile: Since I am still in medical school in my pre-clinical years, I can say it is all difficult. I have never been challenged the way medical school has challenged me, and I can truly say I am working the hardest I have ever worked in my life in pursing this degree. What keeps me going is the fact that I am working hard each day to become the best physician I can be for my future patients. I see the light at the end of the tunnel witnessing my mom’s success, and I know the sacrifices I am making right now will all be worth it in the end. If this were an easy path, then everyone would do it. I know it takes sacrifice and I am willing.
Kathrine: Looking back at medical school, I realize that the pre-clinical years were challenging, yet the professors at RUSM prepared me well for USMLE Step 1 and 2. I had very close relationships with my professors and I appreciated the mentoring they provided to make me successful. Many would consider traveling to different locations for rotations challenging but I found it helped me adapt to hospital life.
What made you glad you attended RUSM?
Maile: RUSM has allowed me the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream. I am honored to follow in my mother’s footsteps and her guidance has been one of the biggest blessings of this whole experience.
Kathrine: I am very glad that I chose RUSM. I was able to have rotations through a Yale hospital, which is where I met my husband of 25 years. Being a Rossie has helped me guide others to RUSM who didn’t even know it existed or was even an option. The greatest of those that I have influenced have been my niece, who is a practicing OB/GYN, and of course, my daughter, who makes me the proudest mother in the world.
What are your lives like now and what do you hope to do in the future?
Maile: I’m excited to continue my journey at RUSM on the beautiful island of Barbados, and I cannot wait to move on to rotations in the US soon. There are so many possibilities for future specialties, and I am confident I will find my path once I complete rotations in my clinical years. I am especially interested in OB/GYN and emergency medicine.
Kathrine: My life is full and busy. I am a full-time ER Physician at Emergency Physician Staffing and Management (MEDS) at St. Mary’s Hospital in Centralia IL, mother to nine wonderful children and wife to my loving husband, Dr. Travis Whitehead. When at work, I admit patients to the hospitalist service and one of my colleagues is also a fellow Rossie. It is amazing how many people I meet who have attended RUSM, including three of my neighbors are also RUSM graduates. As far as my family, all but one of my children would like to pursue medicine in the future. My plan is to practice Emergency Medicine until the day I die. Thank God I love what I do, so it’s never work to me.